Marcus Garvey’s Black Star Line

Posted on
Marcus Garvey
Marcus Garvey, 1887-1940, photographed August 5, 1924. (from Library of Congress, George Grantham Bain Collection)

Some time ago, I wrote a post about a Black entrepreneur in the Baltimore area whose name was Capt. George Brown. As a young man he experienced the degradations of the Jim Crow system while riding the rails, vowing that one he would create a first-class transportation experience for Black people. And he did it! He also built a memorable pair of amusement parks where Black citizens of Baltimore could go and be safe and enjoy themselves. Today, I want to write about Marcus Garvey, a Black man whose dreams for  his people were much larger, who was much more complex, and who was far more controversial than Captain Brown.

Marcus Garvey, like George Brown, believed in the power of ships and transportation to change the lives of Black people all over the world. He founded the company, the Black Star Line, as an embodiment of that dream to link the 400,000,000 people of color around the globe with the continent of Africa. But his story did not end up quite so well as George Brown’s.   Read more

The Longest Run

Posted on
A card and envelope, ‘Mauretania’ Leaving Southampton c1920 (from a painting by Harley Crossley.) From the Beazley collection.

Hello readers, and welcome back to the Library blog. Today, we are going to take a break from the topic of piracy to explore the world of steamships 100 years ago today. This past summer, we saw a lot of coverage of the world’s fastest transatlantic steamship, the SS United States. But what was the fastest ship in the world a century ago today? After consulting the Herbert and Norma Beazley collection, which contains ephemera from hundreds of notable steamships, I found that the fastest steamship – and holder of the Blue Riband – was none other than the RMS Lusitania’s sister ship the RMS Mauretania.

The RMS Lusitania held the Blue Riband from 1907-1909, and the RMS Mauretania outdid her sister by taking the Riband in 1909 and holding it for 20 years straight! RMS Mauretania traveled 2,784 nautical miles in 4 days, 10 hours and 51 minutes, for an average speed of 26.06 knotts, beating RMS Lusitania’s speed of 25.65 knotts. During World War I, RMS Mauretania was docked in Liverpool until her sister, RMS Lusitania, was torpedoed and sunk in 1914. RMS Mauretania was thereafter used as a troopship and a hospital ship, and would resume ferrying passengers once the war was over.   Read more